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1650+ Posts... and Counting

No Gi Is Fine With Me

My second son, Charles, is the head of our dojo.  I have mentioned that he does not like to wear a gi.  Most of the students in our dojo wear a white gi bottom and a white T-shirt (usually a Hawaii Karate Museum T-shirt).

Not Charles.  He just wears shorts and a T-shirt.  I think he wears basketball shorts.  He does not care about a gi at all.  Since he is the head of the dojo, what can I say?  He always tells me that I am the one who said that gi, belts, and rank are unimportant.

I still wear a traditional gi and belt, but that it probably half because I am an old fut, and half because I get cold easily.  It also helps with new students who wonder who is in charge.

But I agree that a gi is unnecessary.  The trappings of Karate often become traps.

If you eliminate the gi, belts, rank, titles, patches, embroidery, trophies, medals, plaques, certificates, positions, organizations, politics, commercial aspects, tournaments, and drama, what are you left with?

TRAINING.  And you do not need a gi to train.

Plus, I have always hated loud gi.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Warm-Up Exercises and Koshi

In most Karate schools a set of warm-up exercises are done before basics, kata, and other forms of training.   The set done in Matsubayashi-Ryu are pretty standard and are similar to those done in other systems.

Originally, most Karate warm-up exercises came from the Japanese military, which in turn got them from European military advisers in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

So here is my point -- the warm-up exercises often have very little to do with Karate.  In particular, with respect to our style (Kishaba Juku), the traditional warm-up exercises were not designed with koshi or koshi dynamics in mind -- they were not designed to improve the student's koshi.

This is important, at least to me.  One of the important aspects of training in Kishaba Juku is reshaping the body to be optimized for koshi/core driven mechanics.  Working the arms and legs is a very good thing, but working the core is also important.  And working the connections between the upper and lower body, and core and extremities, is essential.

The military advisers to the Japanese army over 100 years ago were not thinking about this.  We can.

I have been reformulating our warm-up exercises to help in the body reshaping process for our students.  I am still working on it.  I get this funny feeling that the exercises will make us more like Goju-Ryu and Uechi-Ryu students -- more alike physically and in posture.

And personally, once a student can do warm-up exercises properly, I would prefer that he warm up on his own so that we can get right into kata and training.  Kata is a preferable way to warm up, at least to me.  Why do  warm up before doing kata?  Why not just do kata to warm up?

But if we are going to teach warm-up exercises, it would be nice if the exercises could help us with body reshaping and body dynamics.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Nice Karate Dream

This Guest Post is by one of the adult yudansha in our dojo (Hikari Dojo), Peerawut "Peter" Kamlang-ek.

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Nice Karate Dream

This is a story.

A student joined the dojo for the very first time and he loved it since his very first day. He felt like this dojo was for him, he looked up to his Sensei, yudansha, and other students because they seemed like good people… he was the most beginner. That night himself as a Shodan from the future showed up in his dreams and told him, “I’m glad you feel like you like Karate, you should try your best, stay for a long time and train, just remember the two most important things are character and skill, everything else is just a distraction.” The young Karate student nodded and acknowledged.

He trained for several years and was promoted to Shodan, that night himself as a Sandan showed up in his dreams and spoke to him again, “I want to say congratulations but I think I should just say, good job... you continued to train, just remember the two most important things are character and skill, everything else is a distraction, especially rank.” The young Shodan agreed and trained even harder.

Several years later when the Yudansha was promoted to Sandan, the very same night himself from the future showed up in his dreams again… this time he said, “You don’t need to know what rank I am, I just want to reassure you that I am still practicing Karate and the two most important things are still and will always be character and skill.”

“What a nice dream!”-- he thought.

- - - - - - - - - -

What does rank in martial arts mean to you? I know a person who doesn’t even know where his black belt is... I’m dead serious. The other day a student at our dojo was promoted, I walked up to congratulate him and he seemed very uneasy, bowed humbly (not to me, just to the comment) and said thank you. This might sound bad to some people, but I don’t think anyone at our dojo cares about getting promoted at all...what I mean is it is not our goal. We just want to move at an optimal level and are hardcore about body mechanics. If there was a list then maybe rank is at the bottom, skill will precede that by many numbers, then what do you think is at the very top?.. You guessed it! Character! Character should always be number one. 

As a matter of fact, I take it back, rank is not even on the list.

I have met many respectable people who are humble and downplay everything and I have met too many people who have very little and blow it out of proportion.

I wish everyone a nice dream tonight.. and it doesn’t have to be about Karate!

Oyasuminasai!
 
Peerawut Kamlang-ek

Classical Fighting Arts

The new issue is out.   Mine came in the mail yesterday.  I have two articles this time.  I hope that you enjoy them (if you get the magazine).  I have written about Mitsugi Kobayashi and Shozen Sunabe (part 2 of a 3 part article).

Some of the photos in my articles are from our museum collection.  However, most were provided by David Chambers and some real treasures are included.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: No Stances...

This Guest Post is by my good friend, Sensei Angel Lemus, of the Zentokukai Okinawa Shorinryu Toude Association. Angel is the creator of One Minute Bunkai. The URL is oneminutebunkai.com.  He and I are members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai.

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No stances, strategy, and the relationship of the players/pieces involved

I love the pleasure of NOT worrying about stances, the liberation of that part of your consciousness that has to think of stance delivery as you travel through your kata.

Now I just step out there and not think of what my feet are doing, why?  Because I can. Because I'm not a beginner and I know that my feet, legs, and my lower body know what to do instinctively according to what my upper body is doing.

Its like my upper half and lower half are communicating with themselves checking with each other to ensure that everything is running in optimal condition assuring maximum power and results. Thus it leaves my higher functions to do their part, my eyes to see/gather input about situation surrounding me to allow my "instinct" adapt to the ever changing and chaotic nature of combat. My brain is put on shelf on standby mode so it can have a coffee break and look at the spectacle like someone watching a movie (but it does not butt-in).

Think of it like a tank crew, the tank commander is on the turret gathering intel, making command decisions and barking out orders putting the tank in a good offensive position while at the same time putting it in the best defensive position as possible. The tank driver only drives taking commands from the commander, the ordinance/fire chief aims and fires, the unit of 3 depend on each other, and one cannot possibly do it all at the same time. The commander is your self/instinct, your feet/legs are the driver, your hands/arms are the fire control.

I have found that by abandoning the focus on stances it is a liberating feeling that brings your awareness to a higher level that allows you to focus on the fighting while working kata. Your kata practice should feel like when you are attacked aggressively by your partner and you just move and do your thing. In partner work you don't stop to think for one second about stances. And if you do, that split second will cost you. In partner work your entire focus is (should be) on the attack aimed at your opponent, you just move in whatever "stance" you land in, and it will be correct and it does not need a name.

Going forward I will rely less and less on stance labeling when teaching my new students, at the beginning I will just say step here and there and bend your knees. I will say to them look at me and do what I do, "Mitori Geiko" learning by watching. I will just make minor corrections but not spend so much time (as I have done in the past) on making their cat stance look picture perfect. Because ultimately what matters is can they hit hard, not does the stance look pretty. And if the student is with you for many years he/she will figure it out over time. Of course this method will not work in sports karate because sport kata needs long pauses and the dramatic stances for judges to see the perfect balance and beauty of the presentation­ it is what it is.

In arriving at this juncture I now understand when I see videos of the old masters doing their kata and they always look like they move with a sort of abandonment of what stance they are in at any given time in their kata, the more experienced and older the less predominant stances are. When I wore my early karate diapers I used to see the old films and think, look at those old guys they can't do stances right anymore. Well now I'm wearing my advanced Karate Depends and loving it.

Learning a Long Kata (Yara Kusanku)

I am teaching a student the Yara Kusanku kata. I believe that it is the longest kata in our system -- so there are a lot of movements to learn.  I would say that it might take a student about one month to learn the kata.  I had one student who learned the kata in just a day or two -- but I think she practically has a photographic memory.

Anyway, as I was going over the kata with the student today -- and it seemed like such a long kata -- I said, "Learning the movements and sequence of the kata is only one percent (1%). Learning how to do the kata well is the other ninety-nine percent (99%)."

I added that anyone can learn a kata.  A kata has almost no value in and of itself.  Learning a certain kata does not make you better at Karate.  Being able to perform a kata well (with good body dynamics and power and with a good understanding of the meaning and applications of the movements) makes you better at Karate.

I added that many people know advanced kata and do them terribly.  So what!  Knowing an "advanced" kata does not make you advanced.  An advanced person can perform a "basic" kata and make it look extraordinary.  An unskilled person can perform an "advanced" kata and make it look horrible.  Actually, the hardest thing is to perform a "simple" kata well -- because there is no place to hide (as Robert "Snaggy" Inouye used to say).

Learning the movements and sequence of a kata is like tracing a picture, something any child could do.  Now take that tracing, color it, add dimensions, and turn it into a living, breathing thing!  Animate your kata.

Kata are not simply things to collect.  If you become better at one kata, your overall Karate skill should increase.  Each kata interacts in some way with all the others.

Yara Kusanku is an excellent kata.  However, I feel that Rohai, Passai, and Chinto best capture the feeling of our particular style.  Rohai and Chinto are frightening and Passai is beautiful.

"Learning the movements and sequence of the kata is only one percent (1%). Learning how to do the kata well is the other ninety-nine percent (99%)."

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

More Promotion Advice

Tonight I spoke to the student who was promoted Monday night.  I recommended that he (and other students) concentrate on skill and conditioning -- these are things that cannot be taken from you.  I told the student, "Monday I promoted you, today I could demote you.  Rank is an arbitrary thing."

If you are good at Karate you are good whether I say so or not.  Certainly a person who might attack you won't care about your rank -- he probably won't even know that you study Karate.

If you are promoted -- good!  Now keep training and help the other students.  Keep going.  Enjoy the moment and get back to work -- the work on yourself.  Hey, almost none of the students even wear belts in our dojo.  Most wear a gi bottom and T-shirt with no belt.  So the belt itself mean nothing.  It is the skill that counts.  Keep working on skill.

Would you rather be a 1st degree black belt with a skill level of 3, or a 3rd degree black belt with a skill level of 1?  It sounds like a ridiculous question but I am serious.  Rank is so arbitrary, particularly when you look at many schools.  Can you imagine being a 7th degree black belt with a skill level of 1?

If you are promoted -- good! Don't let it get in the way of your training.

If you are promoted -- good!  You are on the right track. You've learned a lot and there is a great deal more to learn!


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

What We Said When A Student Was Promoted

One of our students was promoted to shodan Wednesday evening.  My son and I basically said:

  • Good job.
  • Keep it up.
  • Help the other students.
I don't think there is much that should be added to that!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Maintaining Power When Transitioning to Kishaba Juku

What do all of the most senior instructors of Kishaba Juku have in common?  To my knowledge, all of them spent many years, even decades, first studying one or more different styles of Karate.  At one time, most of the early instructors of Kishaba Juku practiced the Matsubaashi-Ryu form of Karate.  Today, some Kishaba Juku instructors might have practiced Shotokan or other styles of Karate.

My point is that for most instructors, the methods of Kishaba Juku represented a change or transition from one form or style of Karate to another.  In addition, the methods of Kishaba Juku represented a change or transition from a fairly linear approach to Karate to a more dynamic, whole body, core driven, rotary, whip-like, non-linear, etc. approach.

In my case, I had practiced the Matsubayashi-Ryu form of Karate for over 25 years before becoming a student of Kishaba Juku.  I think that I am fairly typical.  In fact, it is pretty rare to find a senior instructor who began in and has only practiced Kishaba Juku.

When I became a student of Kishaba Juku, I had reached a point where I was deeply frustrated by my inability to improve.  I feel that I had reached my own limits of linear Karate.  I am not saying that other people could not have done better than I did with the same training and methods -- I am just saying that I had reached my own limit.  Trying harder did not produce better results.  Quite the opposite.  Trying harder only made be stiffer, more robotic, and more frustrated!

Of course, the answer is that I was doing things wrong.  For a person who had trained for 25 years, I was doing it wrong.  I was still training like a beginner, which is appropriate for a beginner but not for a more advanced student or instructor.

I will give you a concrete example -- chudan shuto uke or uchi.  I could perform the movement reasonably well (I thought) and could generate a fair amount of power.  However, I could only do 7 or 8 in a row before I became tired.  I was generating all the power using my extremities.  I was muscling the movement and hacking like a caveman.  I simply was not strong enough to keep going after 7 or 8 of such inefficient, full power movements.

When I went to Okinawa and met Sensei Katsuhiko Shinzato, I was amazed by his ability to execute full power shuto techniques, one after another, up and down the dojo, seemingly with no limit.  I remember telling him, "Sensei, if you could just show me how to do that I would be so happy!"

Wow, was I asking for a lot!  Obviously, Shinzato Sensei was not only skilled at shuto.  He could perform any movement just as well -- because of his body dynamics.  The technique did not matter because his body dynamics were so good.  I sometime use a power drill analogy.  Techniques are sort of like drill bits.  You can change the drill bits all you want, but the power source does not change.  If the drill is strong and has good speed and torque settings, you can use any bit you like.  In the same way, Shinzato Sensei's body dynamics don't really change depending on the technique he is performing.  His body dynamics allow him to execute any technique he wants.

So I was incorrect to ask him to "just" teach me to perform shuto like he did.  Then, I did not understand the concept of body dynamics which explains why I incorrectly focused on a certain technique.

But to make a long story short, after my first few training sessions with Shinzato Sensei, I think I could perform about 20 shuto in a row without getting too tired.  Looking back, I was still horribly inefficient, but the point is that the improvement was noticeable.  It gave me positive feedback and hope.  I knew that I was on the right track.


But I have to admit that my early movements, when I was transitioning to Kishaba Juku, were not as powerful as my previous movements. I could hit more but I was not hitting as hard.

Which brings me to the point of this long post.  When transitioning to Kishaba Juku, it should be expected that the student will lose some power.  The student has to learn how to move in a completely different way.  The beginning and end of the movement might look the same but everything in between will be different.  In particular, the student will be learning to generate power in a new and different way -- whole body, core driven mechanics (plus much more).

The new student will lose power but will learn to move more freely in a relaxed manner.  Freed from the rigidity of robot-like movement, the student will gradually be able to generate more power, not by exerting more strength or effort, but by moving faster and with much better timing.

A club can hit very hard.  However, it would be much easier to crack a whip 50 times than it would be to swing a club 50 times.

After about 2 years, I was able to generate as much power as I did before I became a student of Kishaba Juku.  After about 4 years, I was able to generate considerably more power, and by then could perform about 30 or 40 shuto in a row without getting very tired.  Today, I am not sure how many shuto I can perform.  Generally, it seems that I can do as many as I want -- like I remember seeing Shinzato Sensei do, but of course not as well.

When I have a visiting student in Kishaba Juku, I often observe that they tend to concentrate on free movement rather than powerful movement.  Sometimes I ask them, "Did that feel powerful to you?"  The question seems to surprise them.  A new student in our style might think that free, fast movement is good in and of itself.  It is not.  We need to move like a steel whip - not a wet noodle.

Dynamic movement is not good because it is pretty or impressive.  So what?  Can it be used?  If someone attacks you, can you drop them?  Can you move very fast and hit very hard?  You have to be able to do both.

Which is why I think that it is good to start with linear mechanics.  As I mentioned, I could generate power before I became a student of Kishaba Juku.  I was just very inefficient at it.  Now I can generate power much more easily.  I don't get as tired because I am not using as much effort as before.  The two reasons for this is that: (1) I am generating power better (core drive, whole body, etc.), and (2) I am wasting way less energy.  It is not that I have become a great deal physically stronger.  I have become stronger because of my overall training, but that is probably only about 20% of the equation -- 80% is body dynamics.

I sometimes work with Shotokan students.  I enjoy doing so.  They have great linear basics which they practice very diligently.  But, like me, they tend to reach a natural limit moving with linear basics.  More effort does not result in more power or more satisfying movement.  Like me, they need to learn to produce power better and waste less energy.  I can relate to them

Students with linear basics and mechanics will naturally reach a limit -- a limit which is aggravated by age.  With linear mechanics, you have to put in more and more energy to get better results.  Obviously, with age, energy generally diminishes.  I am 54 now.  I certainly am not as strong as my 3 sons.  But then, when I was their ages, I was not a strong as them either!  But can honestly say that I can perform techniques much better at 54 than I could in my 20s, 30s, or 40s.  I am much more powerful and have much more stamina -- again because of the way we generate power and the fact that we do not waste much energy.  My net result today is way better than my net result at younger ages.  And, of course, I have had more time to understand and refine my movements.

When do students reach the limits of linear mechanics?  Of course, it depends.  But I generally think that it is about at the 2nd dan or 3rd dan adult level -- assuming a traditional ranking system not a belt mill. You certainly know that something is wrong when you find a 5th dan or higher who is still cranking away at linear mechanics.  Such people tend to be very frustrated and possibly suffering from self inflicted injuries -- much like I was!

So let's see.  How can you tell if you are moving well?  First, does it feel good?  Do you feel like you are moving very quickly, with a great deal of power, without getting tired?  You have to evaluate yourself very honestly.  Are you moving like a robot, a wet noodle, or a steel whip?

There is another way to evaluate yourself.  When I first watched Shinzato Sensei, and for years after that, whenever he executed a dynamic movement my mouth would drop open.  I would simply be in awe.  When he visited my dojo, my students had exactly the same reaction.  I think that other people have shared this experience.

Well, when you move well, people tend to blink and wonder -- and their mouths tend to drop open.

When you surprise yourself you are on the right track.  It is a good sign when you say, "Wow, how did I do that?"  Now do it again and again until it comes naturally.

And always remember that speed by itself is not enough.  When transitioning to Kishaba Juku, the ultimate goal is to have more power -- seemingly endless, easy power, that appears to come from nowhere. Or at least, that is what I think as a student who is still working on it.


Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Karate Magazine Covers

I just spent a few minutes looking at Karate and Kenpo magazine covers on Ebay.  Phew!  What a lot of violence and testosterone!

If you have practiced Karate for a while, you might have appeared in articles or even on a magazine cover.  The photographers for such things does tell you to, "Look calm, look peaceful, look like you don't want to fight."  Quite the opposite!  Covers have to be exciting -- at least in part to people who really don't understand the martial arts.

I watched a video of a well know escrima teacher from the Philippines.  What got me about it was how casual and natural the teacher looked.  Karate people tend to act like they are doing Karate.  They seem to take on a persona -- like they are acting.  This escrima teacher looked like an ordinary Filipino man, just moving around naturally -- but with exceptional ability.  Except for that exceptional ability, you could not tell him apart from any other man.  Even the terminology he used was ordinary language.  There was no pretense or drama.

Again, he was perfectly ordinary seeming, but with exceptional ability.

Of course, it should be same in Karate.  We should be perfectly normal, but with exceptional ability.  We do not have to put on a gi or "act" like the people we see on magazine covers.  We do not have to act at all.  We can just be ourselves.  Our facial expression does not have to change when we move or execute techniques.  We are not being photographed for a magazine cover or video.  People are not watching.  The only person who might be watching is the attacker, and he probably won't care about our facial expressions.

My wife is Filipino and my four children at mestizo (mixed).  My first Karate instructor was Filipino.  I first thought that Karate must be a Filipino martial art because so many of the teachers were Filipino.  My early Karate teachers were also escrima instructors.  Perhaps this is why their Karate looked so natural and unforced.

Karate should be natural.  We should just be ourselves -- with exceptional ability.



Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

The E in Karate

The last letter in Karate (at least in the English spelling) is "E" and that letter can stand for escape.

It is fitting that the last last letter in the name of our art is also the last thing you will do in an engagement -- escape.  If you have to defend yourself, if it was not possible to avoid the attack, then at the earliest opportunity you should escape.  Defend and escape.  Not defend and make a point.  Not defend and defeat the attacker.  Not defend and beat the crap out of him.  Defend and escape -- get away.

If someone attacks me, he is committing a crime.  He is a criminal.  I am not willing to fight.  I would only protect myself and loved ones.  I am not starting anything and I will try my best to avoid a violent situation.  But if someone attacks me by surprise or will not allow me to withdraw, then there is no choice but to defend myself (or loved ones).

At such time, I will be looking for the earliest possible moment to escape -- to get away.  I am not getting away from a fight.  I am defending, not fighting.  I am getting away from a criminal.

When practicing bunkai, it is useful to practice various techniques -- from the initial avoidance or block, to the counter attack, to a take down or throw, to striking the attacker once he is on the ground, and even to grappling on the ground.  However, if someone attacks you do not have to use every technique you know.  At every phase of the defense, you should be looking for a way to escape.

And if are attacked and defend yourself, you may well have to explain your actions to the police.  Even if you were initially justified in defending yourself, did you go to far?  Did you continue to "fight" when you could have safely escaped?  Did you become the aggressor?

Don't get me wrong.  Karate is to be used as a last resort, and if it is a last resort your life or the life of a loved one is on the line.  If someone attacks me in such as situation, I will do whatever it takes -- but only whatever it takes and no more.  After that, it is up to the police to handle the criminal, not me.

As a Karate instructor, I am not looking for an excuse to use my techniques -- I am trying my best to avoid it and if I must defend myself, I will try to escape at the earliest safe opportunity.  KaratE.

Please also see:  Avoidance and Escape.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Tight Shoulders -- Advice?

This is a story.

A Karate student tried really hard to do things right, but had a chronic problem -- his shoulders were too tight.  His tight shoulders affected all his movements and caused him a great deal of pain.  He even had to see the doctor and chiropractor about his shoulder problem.

His instructor would yell at him whenever he saw his tight shoulders.  Then he would command, "Lower you shoulders and drop and give me twenty!"  The student would obediently drop and do the pushups.  This went on for years and the problem only got worse.

Finally a visiting instructor came to the dojo.  He observed the student and mentioned to him that his shoulders were too tight.  The student dropped and started to do pushup.

"Stop, stop," said the instructor, "please get up."

So what do you think that the instructor said to the student?

"Relax and squeeze your lats."

The point is that yelling at the student and making him do pushups as punishment only made the problem worse (mentally and physically).  The solution was not to feed the problem but to have the student work positively on a solution.

"Relax and squeeze your lats" is not a punishment -- it is a positive solution to the problem.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

SHTF BOB

You could say that I am a "prepper."  Living here in Hawaii, we have to be prepared for hurricanes and tsunami, among other things, and the disruption of public services that can result.  My father was in the military and I was a Boy Scout, so prepping is in my blood.  Plus, my eldest son's good friend Darin has been a big influence on me.  He is from Kauai and they seem to get it bad whenever we have a hurricane (Hilo too).  So he has grown up with an awareness of the need to be prepared.

This week I purchased a really nice bugout bag.  The brand doesn't matter, but the person selling it had included "SHTF BOB" in the title.  It took me a while, but I finally realized what this means.

Shi* Hits The Fan Bug Out Bag

If you think about it, Karate is also something you need when the SHTF.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

About Power: Strength, Speed, and Timing

I was speaking to a student tonight after class and I said to him, "Right now, I am more powerful than you."

I explained to him him that power depends on strength, speed, and timing (along with such factors as proper body alignment, weight shifting, technique, etc.).  I told the student that he was certainly stronger than me, but that his timing was not there yet.  With proper timing, he would be more powerful than me.

My second son, Charles, was also there.  I mentioned that Charles is more powerful than me. Even though I might be a little faster than him, he is much stronger and has better timing than me.

We are always working on body dynamics in the dojo.  There are a number of factors. But for me, strength, speed and timing are key when it comes to power.

It is difficult to become stronger.  It takes hard work and time.  It is difficult to become faster.  Generally, I think that people have a certain maximum speed.  Once you are efficient, you cannot move faster.  You can move smarter, but not faster.  But timing is something that we can work on and improve without too much effort.  Better timing is largely a matter of eliminating wasted movement.  It is hard to become much stronger when you are older.  It is not that hard to develop better timing, even as one becomes older.

I mentioned that my son Charles has better timing than me.  Because I usually teach beginners or young yudansha, I almost always move in a way that is appropriate for them.  I move in a way that they can see and copy.  As a result, I am not moving in my natural way, and my timing is thrown off.  In particular, I tend to throw my techniques late.  I also enlarge the lines of my koshi movements, again so that the students can see and copy me.  But this throws off my own timing, which reduces my overall power.  My son tends to move in his natural way, and does his best to break it down for the students.

How powerful are you?  How are your strength, speed, and timing?  Are these things that you are working on?

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

A Half Second Warning

Would you rather be 15% better in Karate of have a half second warning?

Think about it for a moment.  We practice Karate, at least in part, to develop self-defense ability.  If we are attacked, we should be able to defend ourselves using the techniques we learn and practice in Karate.

We train, year after year, even decade after decade, just to become a little bit better.

But being better might not be enough.  Even a skilled Karate expert won't have much chance if he is hit hard without warning.  He is walking down the street, and bam!  A punch to the side of the head.  All the self defense training in the world won't work if you are unconscious.

But what if the Karate expert had a half second warning?  Then he could step aside, block, counter attack.  You can do a lot in half a second!

It is one thing to practice to improve your skill.  It is quite another thing to train to improve your sense of awareness.  Dojo training often (usually) does not concentrate on awareness.  Attacks are prearranged.  You know who will attack you, when, and how.  Walking down a dark street you will know none of these things.

But if your awareness is "turned on" and you are consciously aware of your surroundings, you might be able to see a dangerous situation before is happens and avoid it.  Or you might be able to at least see (hear, sense) the punch before it lands.  A half second is a really long time in self defense.

It takes a whole lot more work to get better than it does to be more aware -- and awareness might be more useful.

Of course, we should work on both things -- really work on both things.  Practice awareness.  When you do, you will realize how oblivious most people are -- like people crossing a busy street while texting.

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Guest Post: Karate is Not Jujitsu

This Guest Post is by my good friend, Sensei Angel Lemus, of the Zentokukai Okinawa Shorinryu Toude Association. Angel is the creator of One Minute Bunkai. The URL is oneminutebunkai.com.  He and I are members of the Hawaii Karate Kenkyukai.

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Karate is Not Jujitsu

When I teach bunkai and see others practicing I have noticed one thing, it has to do with working bunkai, analyzing it, and the partner work which is a lot of fun but I think it is too easy for us (everyone in general) to forget one big really really important point:­ Karate is not Jujitsu.

Applications involve many things like tearing, breaking, locking, scissoring, blood/oxygen denial, and all this requires grabbing, holding and controlling, and all of it looks sort of like Jujitsu, not because Karate is imitating Jujitsu but because all "real" martial arts, Karate included, contain the same kinds of principles and applications.

So one can say that Karate is like Jujitsu, but one cannot say that Jujitsu is like Karate which brings me to my original point -- Karate is a highly evolved martial art containing grappling and controlling techniques, but what makes it unique is its Atemi­ striking aspects which are second to none. Karate masters of old for whatever reasons decided to focus on the thrusting (punching) and striking which evolved into many ways of using your fists and hands turning them into all kinds of destructive strikes. They devised the Okinawan Makiwara and became incredible hitting machines delivering destructive punches/strikes.

So when I see people working bunkai that starts off with a strike, and I see the "uke" (the person receiving the technique) resisting or trying to counterattack the grapple (later on), I tell myself that person does not "get it", he would not have the opportunity to be resisting because he should have been already knocked out unconscious, or his arm would be totally incapacitated, or his lower abdomen would have imploded causing total shutdown of his body from a toe kick, or he would have been blinded, or his leg would be torn or broken. There is no fighting back from this.

We have to remember that by the time a Karateka doing real Karate would be grabbing and controlling an opponent in order to apply some lock or break, it should be unnecessary to do so because the attacker should have no more fight left in him.  When I work bunkai I always try to incapacitate the opponent using Atemi, it is just so much easier. Of course I am a total advocate for studying bunkai and all the fancy stuff, but when it comes down to it, I will hit first whenever possible then see where things go from there. This is what I try to do in every One Minute Bunkai.

We have to remember that Karate has given us massive high caliber destructive impact weapons, let's always keep those as the primary arsenal before we move into other aspects like grappling.  If you call yourself a Karateka and you are mostly focusing on the grabby feely stuff then in my book, you are more of a Jujitsuka than a Karateka. Atemi defines Karate above other arts. My ideal scenario is to be totally awesome on both aspects of Karate applications, atemi and grappling (Tode).  If you are close to grabbing your opponent's arm then you should have 3 options, 1) totally incapacitate the arm with atemi, 2) bypass atemi and go straight into Tode (grappling), 3) my favorite, do both, start with atemi and then go into it but only if you feel it is necessary. And by this I mean if you hit your opponent so hard that his arm loses all life in it and has turns into a wet noodle, his fight is ended.

I can tell you from personal experience from years of my Sensei (Tim Rodgers) destroying my limbs, where the last thing in my mind was to continue, because I could not, because I was in so much pain.

Lets learn Bunkai, yes, but lets treat it like dessert, it comes after the meat and potatoes, and you cannot eat your dessert unless you clean your plate.

Domo.

Emergency Types

In an emergency, I have observed that there are four types of people:

  • A seemingly strong person who loses it and cries like a baby.
  • A seemingly calm person who gets really angry and curses.
  • A seemingly normal person who becomes super calm and focused on dealing with the emergency.
  • A clueless person who doesn't even realize that there is an emergency.
The first type is pretty useless in an emergency and often becomes one of the victims.

The second type cannot focus on the emergency because his anger blinds him.  He just gets in the way.

The third type is how Karate students are supposed to be.  He rises to the occasion.  He does what needs to be done.  He saves other people. He seems to summon superhuman strength, not just physically, but of will and determination as well.  He is prepared for emergencies because he prepares for emergencies.

The fourth type is also useless in an emergency and is usually one of the victims.

I might have missed some other types.  But over the years I have definitely observed that the third type of person is not necessarily the one you would expect.  This person rises when there is a need and fades back when the emergency is over.  Thank goodness for such people!

What type of person are you?  How about the people around you?  Can they count on you, and can you count on them? -- maybe this guy will lose it, this guy will fly into a rage, this guy will be clueless...

And of course when I use the word "he" in this post, I mean "he" or "she".

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin

Shozen Sunabe Article -- Part 2

I have proofed and finalized the second part of my article about Shozen Sunabe, a student of Chotoku Kyan.  I had not read it for a while, and it was interesting to hear Sunabe Sensei's words and memories again.

I usually submit some photos with my articles.  But David Chambers, the publisher of Classical Fighting Arts, often supplies his own photos or those of other contributors.  This time, I was blown away.  There were two photographs I had never seen before!  I would purchase the magazine, just for the photos (in my articles and others).

There are also some very nice photos in my editorial about Mitsugi Kobayashi (student of Seko Higa).

As I have mentioned before, because my articles appear quite a while after I wrote them, I often forget about much of what I have written and it is like I am reading the articles for the first time.  I really mean this.  By the time I get to read an article, I might have written others and  worked on other projects, such a lectures or exhibits.  I am always working on projects.  I figure that there will be time to remember what I have written later.  And nothing is as important as training -- right?

I do hope that more young Karate instructors will write about the art.  Just start with one article about something that interests you.  Once you get into writing, the words will just flow!  You will find your voice, and then I can read your articles!

Respectfully,

Charles C. Goodin